Completion of the first national centre dedicated to carnival arts was celebrated today as Barbara Follett, Minister for Culture and the East of England, and musician Levi Roots, famed for his Reggae Reggae sauce, formally handed over the keys to the £7.3 million state-of-the-art building in the heart of Luton.
Members of the carnival community and the principal project funders of the world-class carnival centre (including Arts Council England, East of England Development Agency, GO-East, European Regional Development Agency and Luton Borough Council) came together for the ceremony and buried time capsules containing carnival mementoes to mark the occasion.
The UK Centre for Carnival Arts (UKCCA) is, as its name suggests, a vibrant creative organisation devoted to the celebration and promotion of the culture of carnivals. It focuses on the professional development of carnival skills and business training in music, dance, stagecraft and design. The Centre, which with Luton’s famed International Carnival is expected to contribute over £34 million to the East of England’s economy, will attract national and international visitors, from artists and creative entrepreneurs to school children and the local community.
Paul Anderson, the chief executive of the UKCCA, said: “This has been more than six years in the making and we are delighted that our vision, inspired by carnival communities to create a national centre for carnival arts, has today become a reality in the heart of Luton. This is an important landmark that will help change perceptions of our art form, celebrate and honour the traditions of truly amazing people and artists, and leave a lasting legacy for generations to come. This unique and creative centre would never have been realised without the massive unabated support from our principal funders – Arts Council England, East of England Development Agency, GO-East, European Regional Development Fund and Luton Borough Council and I extend my deepest thanks to all involved.”
Barbara Follett, Minister for Culture and East of England said: “The UK Centre for Carnival Arts has created a beacon of cultural excellence in one of the East of England’s most disadvantaged towns. I congratulate everyone involved in this tremendous achievement.
“The Centre will allow people of all ages and backgrounds to learn new creative and expressive skills; ones which will enable them to make an invaluable contribution to both the cultural wealth and the future workforce of our region.”
Andrea Stark, Executive Director, Arts Council England, East said: “The UK Centre for Carnival Arts will create jobs, enhance skills, and attract international talent and new visitors. It is part of the exciting portfolio of world-class capital developments that the Arts Council, together with the East of England Development Agency, local authorities and other partners, is investing in, to bring great art to everyone.”
Deborah Cadman, chief executive of EEDA said: “UKCCA will support and create new businesses associated with carnival and provide training opportunities, which will help the further regeneration of the town. Small businesses like this are at the core of entrepreneurial spirit, which is alive and well in Luton. The centre is a testament to the commitment and effectiveness of EEDA working closely with the Arts Council and other sponsors.”
Hazel Simmons, Leader of Luton Borough Council, said: “We are committed to providing a range of high-quality arts services in Luton, and encourage involvement by all sectors of the community to improve Luton’s economic, educational and cultural profile. The opening of this truly world class centre in the heart of the town will go a long way towards improving the lives of so many people through the creation of jobs and training, showcasing of local talent, and putting Luton on the map as the cultural capital of the South East.”
Paul Anderson concludes: “Luton is one of the most vibrant, diverse and creative communities in the UK, representing a range of cultures and nationalities involved in carnival arts. Luton is famed for its 34 year carnival heritage, its inclusive carnival developmental programmes and its ability to unite its diverse community making it the ideal home for a national centre dedicated to supporting the development of carnival arts throughout the UK and beyond.”
A spectacular carnival launch event to celebrate the opening of the UK Centre of Carnival Arts in Luton is planned for 3rd May.